Ronald Reagan

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Social Studies
Politicians and Presidents

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Ronald Reagan

After making many unsuccessful bids for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and 1976, Reagan finally received his party's approval in 1980. In that year's general election, he defeated Democrat oponent President Jimmy Carter, winning the Electoral College (489 to 49) and capturing almost 51 percent of the popular vote. At age 69, Reagan was the oldest person elected to the U.S. presidency. In his inaugural speech on January 20, 1981, Reagan rhetorically announced that "government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem." He called for an period of national renewal and hoped that America would again be "a beacon of hope for those who do not have freedom." He and his wife, Nancy Reagan, made a new era of glamour to the White House, with designer fashions and a major redecoration of the mansion. On March 30, 1981, as President Ronald Reagan was exiting the Washington Hilton Hotel with several of his advisors, shots were fired and his Secret Service agents pushed Reagan into his limousine. Once in the car, it was discovered that the president had been hit. His would-be assassin was John Hinckley Jr. At the hospital, doctors determined that the gunman's bullet had pierced one of the president's lungs and narrowly missed his heart. Reagan later told his wife, "Honey, I forgot to duck." Within several weeks of the shooting, President Reagan was back at work. President Reagan advanced policies that reduced social programs and restrictions on business. Tax cuts were implemented to stimulate the United States' economy. He also advocated for increases in military spending, reductions in certain social programs and measures to deregulate business. By 1983, the nation's economy had begun to recover and, according to many economists, entered a seven-year period of prosperity. Reagan was the President during the Cold War. Thoughout his first term he embarked on a massive build-up of U.S. weapons and troops. He implemented the "Reagan Doctrine," which provided aid to anti-communist movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 1983, he announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, a plan aiming to develop space-based weapons to protect America from attacks by Soviet nuclear missiles. During his second term, Reagan forged a diplomatic relationship with the reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev, chairman of the Soviet Union. In 1987, the Americans and Soviets signed a historic agreement to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. That same year, Reagan spoke at Germany's Berlin Wall, a symbol of communism, and famously challenged Gorbachev to tear it down. Twenty-nine months later, Gorbachev allowed the people of Berlin to dismantle the wall, ending Soviet domination of East Germany.

After leaving the White House in January 1989, Reagan and wife Nancy returned to their home in Los Angeles, California. In 1991, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum opened in Simi Valley, California. In November 1994, Reagan revealed in a handwritten letter to the American people that he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Nearly a decade later, on June 5, 2004, he died at his Los Angeles home at age 93, making him the nation's longest-lived president at that time. (In 2006, Gerald Ford surpassed him for this title.) A state funeral was held in Washington, D.C., and Reagan was later buried on the grounds of his presidential library in California.

Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, on February 6, 1911, Ronald Reagan originally chose a career in entertainment, staring in more than 50 films. While in Hollywood, he served as president of the Screen Actor's Guild and met his future wife, Nancy (Davis) Reagan. He served two terms as governor of California. Originally a liberal Democrat, Reagan ran for the U.S. presidency as a conservative Republican and won two terms, beginning in 1980

The nickname "Dutch" was given to him by his father and mother John Edward "Jack" Reagan and Nellie Wilson Reagan because of his resemblence to "a fat little Dutchman." Reagan's family lived in multiple towns, but finally settled in Dixon, Illinois, in 1920, where his father opened a shoe store. In 1928, Ronald Reagan became a graduate of Dixon High School, where he was an athlete, the student body president and performed in school plays. Regan enrolled at Eureka College in Illinois on an athletic scholarship, there he majored in economics and sociology. He played football, ran track, captained the swim team, served as student council president and acted in school productions. In 1937, Reagan signed a seven-year contract with the Warner Brothers movie studio. Over the next three decades, he appeared in more than 50 films. In 1940, Reagan married actress Jane Wyman. The couple had one daughter Maureen and adopted a son, Michael. The couple divorced in 1948. During World War II, Reagan was disqualified from combat duty due to poor eyesight and spent his time in the Army making training films. He left the military ranked as a captain. From 1947 to 1952, Reagan served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild. During this time, he met actress Nancy Davis who later became his wife. The couple had two children Patricia and Ronald. In his first race for public office, Reagan defeated Democratic incumbent Edmund "Pat" Brown Sr. by almost 1 million votes winning the California governorship. He was re-elected to a second term in 1970.

On March 16, 1986, Ronald Reagan spoke about mounting issues in the country of Nicaragua titled: Address to the Nation on the Situation in Nicaragua. My family was intimately involved with this issue. My grandfather, Alejandro Salazar was captured and imprisoned for standing up to the communist party, The Sandinistas. My Uncle Alex was a freedom fighter for the Contras that stood up to the very same communist party that imprisoned my grandfather. After being released for Sandinista jail my family left Nicaragua and fled to the United States. My grandfather, along with other influential Nicaraguan business men; lobbied in the United States for help in assisting Nicaragua. My grandfather ended up meeting with Ronald Reagan and discussing options to help Nicaragua.Address to the Nation on the Situation in Nicaragua:


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